The Ne
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The Ne'er-Do-Well


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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Ne'er-Do-Well, by Rex Beach #7 in our series by Rex BeachCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****Title: The Ne'er-Do-WellAuthor: Rex BeachRelease Date: April, 2004 [EBook #5405] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first postedon July 7, 2002] [Date last updated: August 16, 2005]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE NE'ER-DO-WELL ***Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.THE NE'ER-DO-WELLBy REX BEACHAuthor of "THE SILVER HORDE" "THE SPOILERS" "THE IRON TRAIL" Etc.IllustratedTOMY WIFECONTENTSI. VICTORYII. ...



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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Ne'er-Do-Well, by Rex Beach #7 in our series by Rex Beach Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook. This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do not change or edit the header without written permission. Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can also find out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved. **Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts** **eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971** *****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!***** Title: The Ne'er-Do-Well Author: Rex Beach Release Date: April, 2004 [EBook #5405] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on July 7, 2002] [Date last updated: August 16, 2005] Edition: 10 Language: English *** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE NE'ER-DO-WELL *** Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. THE NE'ER-DO-WELL By REX BEACH Author of "THE SILVER HORDE" "THE SPOILERS" "THE IRON TRAIL" Etc. Illustrated TO MY WIFE CONTENTS I. VICTORY II. THE TRAIL DIVIDES III. A GAP IV. NEW ACQUAINTANCES V. A REMEDY IS PROPOSED VI. IN WHICH KIRK ANTHONY IS GREATLY SURPRISED VII. THE REWARD OF MERIT VIII. EL COMANDANTE TAKES A HAND IX. SPANISH LAW X. A CHANGE OF PLAN XI. THE TRUTH ABOUT MRS. CORTLANDT XII. A NIGHT AT TABOGA XIII. CHIQUITA XIV. THE PATH THAT LED NOWHERE XV. ALIAS JEFFERSON LOCKE XVI. "8838" XVII. GARAVEL THE BANKER XVIII. THE SIEGE OF MARIA TORRES XIX. "LA TOSCA" XX. AN AWAKENING XXI. THE REST OF THE FAMILY XXII. A CHALLENGE AND A CONFESSION XXIII. A PLOT AND A SACRIFICE XXIV. A BUSINESS PROPOSITION XXV. CHECKMATE! XXVI. THE CRASH XXVII. A QUESTION XXVIII. THE ANSWER XXIX. A LAST APPEAL XXX. DARWIN K ANTHONY THE NE'ER-DO-WELL I VICTORY It was a crisp November night. The artificial brilliance of Broadway was rivalled by a glorious moonlit sky. The first autumn frost was in the air, and on the side-streets long rows of taxicabs were standing, their motors blanketed, their chauffeurs threshing their arms to rout the cold. A few well-bundled cabbies, perched upon old-style hansoms, were barking at the stream of hurrying pedestrians. Against a background of lesser lights myriad points of electric signs flashed into everchanging shapes, winking like huge, distorted eyes; fanciful designs of liquid fire ran up and down the walls or blazed forth in lurid colors. From the city's canons came an incessant clanging roar, as if a great river of brass and steel were grinding its way toward the sea. Crowds began to issue from the theatres, and the lines of waiting vehicles broke up, filling the streets with the whir of machinery and the clatter of hoofs. A horde of shrill-voiced urchins pierced the confusion, waving their papers and screaming the football scores at the tops of their lusty lungs, while above it all rose the hoarse tones of carriage callers, the commands of traffic officers, and the din of street-car gongs. In the lobby of one of the playhouses a woman paused to adjust her wraps, and, hearing the cries of the newsboys, petulantly exclaimed: "I'm absolutely sick of football. That performance during the third act was enough to disgust one." Her escort smiled. "Oh, you take it too seriously," he said. "Those boys don't mean anything. That was merely Youth— irrepressible Youth, on a tear. You wouldn't spoil the fun?" "It may have been Youth," returned his companion, "but it sounded more like the end of the world. It was a little too much!" A bevy of shop-girls came bustling forth from a gallery exit. "Rah! rah! rah!" they mimicked, whereupon the cry was answered by a hundred throats as the doors belched forth the football players and their friends. Out they came, tumbling, pushing, jostling; greeting scowls and smiles with grins of insolent good-humor. In their hands were decorated walking-sticks and flags, ragged and tattered as if from long use in a heavy gale. Dignified old gentlemen dived among them in pursuit of top-hats; hysterical matrons hustled daughters into carriages and slammed the doors. "Wuxtry! Wuxtry!" shrilled the newsboys. "Full account of the big game!" A youth with a ridiculous little hat and heliotrope socks dashed into the street, where, facing the crowd, he led a battle song of his university. Policemen set their shoulders to the mob, but, though they met with no open resistance, they might as well have tried to dislodge a thicket of saplings. To-night football was king. Out through the crowd came a score of deep-chested young men moving together as if to resist an attack, whereupon a mighty roar went up. The cheer-leader increased his antics, and the barking yell changed to a measured chant, to the time of which the army marched down the street until the twenty athletes dodged in through the revolving doors of a cafe, leaving Broadway rocking with the tumult. All the city was football-mad, it seemed, for no sooner had the new-comers entered the restaurant than the diners rose to wave napkins or to cheer. Men stepped upon chairs and craned for a better sight of them; women raised their voices in eager questioning. A gentleman in evening dress pointed out the leader of the squad to his companions, explaining: "That is Anthony—the big chap. He's Darwin K. Anthony's son. You've heard about the Anthony bill at Albany?" "Yes, and I saw this fellow play football four years ago. Say! That was a game." "He's a worthless sort of chap, isn't he?" remarked one of the women, when the squad had disappeared up the stairs. "Just a rich man's son, that's all. But he certainly could play football." "Didn't I read that he had been sent to jail recently?" "No doubt. He was given thirty days." "What! in PRISON?" questioned another, in a shocked voice. "Only for speeding. It was his third offence, and his father let him take his medicine." "How cruel!" "Old man Anthony doesn't care for this sort of thing. He's right, too. All this young fellow is good for is to spend money." Up in the banquet-hall, however, it was evident that Kirk Anthony was more highly esteemed by his mates than by the public at large. He was their hero, in fact, and in a way he deserved it. For three years before his graduation he had been the heart and sinew of the university team, and for the four years following he had coached them, preferring the life of an athletic trainer to the career his father had offered him. And he had done his chosen work well. Only three weeks prior to the hard gruel of the great game the eleven had received a blow that had left its supporters dazed and despairing. There had been a scandal, of which the public had heard little and the students scarcely more, resulting in the expulsion of the five best players of the team. The crisis might have daunted the most resourceful of men, yet Anthony had proved equal to it. For twenty-one days he had labored like a real general, spending his nights alone with diagrams and little dummies on a miniature gridiron, his days in careful coaching. He had taken a huge, ungainly Nova Scotian lad named Ringold for centre; he had placed a square-jawed, tow-headed boy from Duluth in the line; he had selected a high-strung, unseasoned chap, who for two years had been eating his heart out on the side-lines, and made him into a quarter-back. Then he had driven them all with the cruelty of a Cossack captain; and when at last the dusk of this November day had settled, new football history had been made. The world had seen a strange team snatch victory from defeat, and not one of all the thirty thousand onlookers but knew to whom the credit belonged. It had been a tremendous spectacle, and when the final whistle blew for the multitude to come roaring down across the field, the cohorts had paid homage to Kirk Anthony, the weary coach to whom they knew the honor belonged. Of course this fervid enthusiasm and hero-worship was all very immature, very foolish, as the general public acknowledged after it had taken time to cool off. Yet there was something appealing about it, after all. At any rate, the press deemed the public sufficiently interested in the subject to warrant giving it considerable prominence, and the name of Darwin K. Anthony's son was published far and wide. Naturally, the newspapers gave the young man's story as well as a history of the game. They told of his disagreement with his father; of the Anthony anti-football bill which the old man in his rage had driven through the legislature and up to the Governor himself. Some of them even printed a rehash of the railroad man's famous magazine attack on the modern college, in which he all but cited his own son as an example of the havoc wrought by present- day university methods. The elder Anthony's wealth and position made it good copy. The yellow journals liked it immensely, and, strangely enough, notwithstanding the positiveness with which the newspapers spoke, the facts agreed essentially with their statements. Darwin K. Anthony and his son had quarrelled, they were estranged; the young man did prefer idleness to industry. Exactly as the published narratives related, he toiled not at all, he spun nothing but excuses, he arrayed himself in sartorial glory, and drove a yellow racing-car beyond the speed limit. It was all true, only incomplete. Kirk Anthony's father had even better reasons for his disapproval of the young man's behavior than appeared. The fact was that Kirk's associates were of a sort to worry any observant parent, and, moreover, he had acquired a renown in that part of New York lying immediately west of Broadway and north of Twenty-sixth Street which, in his father's opinion, added not at all to the lustre of the family name. In particular, Anthony, Sr., was prejudiced against a certain Higgins, who, of course, was his son's boon companion, aid, and abettor. This young gentleman was a lean, horse-faced senior, whose unbroken solemnity of manner had more than once led strangers to mistake him for a divinity student, though closer acquaintance proved him wholly unmoral and rattle-brained. Mr. Higgins possessed a distorted sense of humor and a crooked outlook upon life; while, so far as had been discovered, he owned but two ambitions: one to whip a policeman, the other to write a musical comedy. Neither seemed likely of realization. As for the first, he was narrow-chested and gangling, while a brief, disastrous experience on the college paper had furnished a sad commentary upon the second. Not to exaggerate, Darwin K. Anthony, the father, saw in the person of Adelbert Higgins a budding criminal of rare precocity, and a menace to his son; while to the object of his solicitude the aforesaid criminal was nothing more than an entertaining companion, whose bizarre disregard of all established rules of right and wrong matched well with his own careless temper. Higgins, moreover, was an ardent follower of athletics, revolving like a satellite about the football stars, and attaching himself especially to Kirk, who was too good-natured to find fault with an honest admirer. It was Higgins this evening who, after the "cripples" had deserted and the supper party had dwindled to perhaps a dozen, proposed to make a night of it. It was always Higgins who proposed to make a night of it, and now, as usual, his words were greeted with enthusiasm. Having obtained the floor, he gazed owlishly over the flushed faces around the table and said: "I wish to announce that, in our little journey to the underworld, we will visit some places of rare interest and educational value. First we will go to the House of Seven Turnings." "No poetry, Hig!" some one cried. "What is it?" "It is merely a rendezvous of pickpockets and thieves, accessible only to a chosen few. I feel sure you will enjoy yourselves there, for the bartender has the secret of a remarkable gin fizz, sweeter than a maiden's smile, more intoxicating than a kiss." "Piffle!" "It is a place where the student of sociology can obtain a world of valuable information." "How do we get in?" "Leave that to old Doctor Higgins," Anthony laughed. "To get out is the difficulty." "Oh, I guess we'll get out," said the bulky Ringold. "After we have concluded our investigations at the House of Seven Turnings," continued the ceremonious Higgins, "we will go to the Palace of Ebony, where a full negro orchestra—" "The police closed that a week ago." "But it has reopened on a scale larger and grander than ever." "Let's take in the Austrian Village," offered Ringold. "Patiently! Patiently, Behemoth! We'll take 'em all in. However, I wish to request one favor. If by any chance I should become embroiled with a minion of the law, please, oh please, let me finish him." "Remember the last time," cautioned Anthony. "You've never come home a winner." "Enough! Away with painful memories! All in favor—" "AYE!" yelled the diners, whereupon a stampede ensued that caused the waiters in the main dining-room below to cease piling chairs upon the tables and hastily weight their napkins with salt- cellars. But the crowd was not combative. They poured out upon the street in the best possible humor, and even at the House of Seven Turnings, as Higgins had dubbed the "hide-away" on Thirty-second Street, they made no disturbance. On the contrary, it was altogether too quiet for most of them, and they soon sought another scene. But there were deserters en route to the Palace of Ebony, and when in turn the joys of a full negro orchestra had palled and a course was set for the Austrian Village, the number of investigators had dwindled to a choice half-dozen. These, however, were kindred spirits, veterans of many a midnight escapade, composing a flying squadron of exactly the right proportions for the utmost efficiency and mobility combined. The hour was now past a respectable bedtime and the Tenderloin had awakened. The roar of commerce had dwindled away, and the comparative silence was broken only by the clang of an infrequent trolley. The streets were empty of vehicles, except for a few cabs that followed the little group persistently. As yet there was no need of them. The crowd was made up, for the most part, of healthy, full-blooded boys, fresh from weeks of training, strong of body, and with stomachs like galvanized iron. They showed scant evidence of intoxication. As for the weakest member of the party, it had long been known that one drink made Higgins drunk, and all further libations merely served to maintain him in status quo. Exhaustive experiments had proved that he was able to retain consciousness and the power of locomotion until the first streak of dawn appeared, after which he usually became a burden. For the present he was amply able to take care of himself, and now, although his speech was slightly thick, his demeanor was as didactic and severe as ever, and, save for the vagrant workings of his mind, he might have passed for a curate. As a whole, the crowd was in fine fettle. The Austrian Village is a saloon, dance-hall, and all-night restaurant, flourishing brazenly within a stone's throw of Broadway, and it is counted one of the sights of the city. Upon entering, one may pass through a saloon where white- aproned waiters load trays and wrangle over checks, then into a ball-room filled with the flotsam and jetsam of midnight Manhattan. Above and around this room runs a white-and-gold balcony partitioned into boxes; beneath it are many tables separated from the waxed floor by a railing. Inside the enclosure men in street-clothes and smartly gowned girls with enormous hats revolve nightly to the strains of an orchestra which nearly succeeds in drowning their voices. From the tables come laughter and snatches of song; waiters dash hither and yon. It is all very animated and gay on the surface, and none but the closely observant would note the weariness beneath the women's smiles, the laughter notes that occasionally jar, or perceive that the tailored gowns are imitations, the ermines mainly rabbit-skins. But the eyes of youth are not analytical, and seen through a rosy haze the sight was inspiriting. The college men selected a table, and, shouldering the occupants aside without ceremony, seated themselves and pounded for a waiter. Padden, the proprietor, came toward them, and, after greeting Anthony and Higgins by a shake of his left hand, ducked his round gray head in acknowledgment of an introduction to the others. "Excuse my right," said he, displaying a swollen hand criss- crossed with surgeon's plaster. "A fellow got noisy last night." "D'jou hit him?" queried Higgins, gazing with interest at the proprietor's knuckles. "Yes. I swung for his jaw and went high. Teeth—" Mr. Padden said, vaguely. He turned a shrewd eye upon Anthony. "I heard about the game to-day. That was all right." Kirk grinned boyishly. "I didn't have much to do with it; these are the fellows." "Don't believe him," interrupted Ringold. "Sure! he's too modest," Higgins chimed in. "Fine fellow an' all that, understand, but he's got two faults—he's modest and he's lazy. He's caused a lot of uneasiness to his father and me. Father's a fine man, too." He nodded his long, narrow head solemnly. "We know who did the trick for us," added Anderson, the straw- haired half-back. "Glad you dropped in," Mr. Padden assured them. "Anything you boys want and can't get, let me know." When he had gone Higgins averred: "There's a fine man—peaceful, refined—got a lovely character, too. Let's be gentlemen while we're in his place." Ringold rose. "I'm going to dance, fellows," he announced, and his companions followed him, with the exception of the cadaverous Higgins, who maintained that dancing was a pastime for the frivolous and weak. When they returned to their table they found a stranger was seated with him, who rose as Higgins made him known. "Boys, meet my old friend, Mr. Jefferson Locke, of St. Louis. He's all right." The college men treated this new recruit with a hilarious cordiality, to which he responded with the air of one quite accustomed to such reunions. "I was at the game this afternoon," he explained, when the greetings were over, "and recognized you chaps when you came in. I'm a football fan myself." "You look as if you might have played," said Anthony, sizing up the broad frame of the Missourian with the critical eye of a coach. "Yes. I used to play." "Where?" Mr. Locke avoided answer by calling loudly for a waiter, but when the orders had been taken Kirk repeated: "Where did you play, Mr. Locke?" "Left tackle." "What university?" "Oh one of the Southern colleges. It was a freshwater school—you wouldn't know the name." He changed the subject quickly by adding: "I just got into town this morning and I'm sailing to-morrow. I couldn't catch a boat to-day, so I'm having a little blow-out on my own account. When I recognized you all, I just butted in. New York is a lonesome place for a stranger. Hope you don't mind my joining you." "Not at all!" he was assured. When he came to pay the waiter he displayed a roll of yellow- backed bills that caused Anthony to caution him: "If I were you I'd put that in my shoe. I know this place." Locke only laughed. "There's more where this came from. However, that's one reason I'd like to stick around with you fellows. I have an idea I've been followed, and I don't care to be tapped on the head. If you will let me trail along I'll foot the bills. That's a fair proposition." "It certainly sounds engaging," cried Higgins, joyously. "The sight of that money awakens a feeling of loyalty in our breasts. I speak for all when I say we will guard you like a lily as long as your money lasts, Mr. Locke." "As long as we last," Ringold amended. "It's a bargain," Locke agreed. "Hereafter I foot the bills. You're my guests for the evening, understand. If you'll agree to keep me company until my ship sails I'll do the entertaining." "Oh, come now," Anthony struck in. "The fellows are just fooling. You're more than welcome to stay with us if you like, but we can't let you put up for it." "Why not? We'll make a night of it. I'll show you how we spend money in St. Louis. I'm too nervous to go to bed." Anthony protested, insisting that the other should regard himself as the guest of the crowd; but as Locke proved obdurate the question was allowed to drop until later, when Kirk found himself promoted by tacit consent to the position of host for the whole company. This was a little more than he had bargained for, but the sense of having triumphed in a contest of good-fellowship consoled him. Meanwhile, the stranger, despite his avowedly festive spirit, showed a certain reserve. When the music again struck up he declined to dance, preferring to remain with Higgins in their inconspicuous corner. "There's a fine fellow," the latter remarked, following his best friend's figure with his eyes, when he and Locke were once more alone. "Sweet nature." "Anthony? Yes, he looks it." "He's got just two faults, I always say: he's too modest by far and he's lazy—won't work." "He doesn't have to work. His old man has plenty of coin, hasn't he?" "Yes, and he'll keep it, too. Heartless old wretch. Mr.—What's your name, again?" "Locke." "Mr. Locke." The speaker stared mournfully at his companion. "D'you know what that unnatural parent did?" "No." "He let his only son and heir go to jail." Mr. Jefferson Locke, of St. Louis, started; his wandering, watchful eyes flew back to the speaker. "What! Jail?" "That's what I remarked. He allowed his own flesh and blood to languish in a loathsome cell." "What for? What did they get him for?" queried the other, quickly. "Speeding." "Oh!" Locke let himself back in his chair. "Yes sir, he's a branded felon." "Nonsense. That's nothing." "But we love him just the same, criminal though he is" said Higgins, showing a disposition to weep. "If he were not such a strong, patient soul it might have ruined his whole life." Mr. Locke grunted. "S'true! You've no idea the disgrace it is to go to jail." The Missourian stirred uneasily. "Say, it gets on my nerves to sit still," said he. "Let's move around." "Patiently! Patiently! Somebody's sure to start something before long." "Well, I don't care to get mixed up in a row." Higgins laid a long, white hand upon the speaker's arm. "Then stay with us, Mr.—Locke. If you incline to peace, be one of us. We're a flock of sucking doves." The dancers came crowding up to the table at the moment, and Ringold suggested loudly: "I'm hungry; let's eat again." His proposal met with eager response. "Where shall we go?" asked Anderson. "I just fixed it with Padden for a private room upstairs," Anthony said. "All the cafes are closed now, and this is the best place in town for chicken creole, anyhow." Accordingly he led the way, and the rest filed out after him; but as they left the ball-room a medium-sized man who had recently entered from the street caught a glimpse of them, craned his neck for a better view, then idled along behind.